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The corresponding passage in the translation is this :
“God and his angels forbid that I
The Franks bewail her in grief and dole.
M. WATSON, S.J.
NOTES FROM FIJI.
(BY A CORRESPONDENT.)
I LEFT Sydney in the A.S.N. steamer, the Gunga, on the 3rd of this month. We made a very good passage, but the trip was not an enjoyable one. This vessel is a champion roller. She was evidently constructed to steam on a mill-pond; for if there is the slightest swell on the ocean, she is in it, and lurches from side to side in a manner, not only highly inconvenient to the passengers, but which must also retard her progress. She is an uncomfortable ship, too, in other respects. There is a lot of lumber on her decks, doubtless supposed to be of use, but which passengers think might easily be dispensed with. The cabin accommodation might be better, and the cuisine decidedly wants improving. I have travelled on most of the A.S.N. Co.'s boats, and the “table” kept on board the Gunga is the worst I have met with. This, I understand, has always been the case; and it is exceedingly hard that travellers to Fiji should be treated worse than those on the Queensland coast. The passagemoney for a seven or eight days' voyage between Sydney and Levuka is £15, quite sufficient to pay the company for first-class accommodation. £5000 a year subsidy is granted for the mail contract, and the rates charged for freight are remunerative; so I think Fijians have good cause to grumble at the indifferent treatment they receive on board the Gunga. There was a meanness displayed in the matter of bath-towels and napkins highly reprehensible. I began to recognise dinner by the fact that napkins were provided for that meal only; otherwise there was a great sameness, caused by the fact that onions formed part of nearly every dish. That is a seacook's idea of seasoning. It is my belief that Pharoah hanged his chief baker because he would put an overdose of onions in the patés à la Memphis, in which case it was a justifiable act. Why not give one bills of fare on these colonial steamers ? It is annoying, after a meal is through, to
find at the end of the table some modest dish, devoid of onions, which is a special favourite. Feeding times on the Gunga were about the quickest on record. There was not a minute lost; and if one did not immediately set to business, away went the dishes. Sheep do not flourish in Fiji, they die off here as in New Caledonia; this is the reason I suppose, that on board we had mutton in all its forms. Some hankered after pork, and with greedy eyes watched the pigs in the pen “for'rad,” which grunted defiantly, and were spared the knife. In the liquor department, too, there might have been a great improvement. Where spirits are taken out of bond and shore prices charged, the best of everything could be supplied, and a profit of 60 per cent. made. It is not fair to give one potato whisky under these circumstances.
These were drawbacks. It is but fair to say that the officers of the Gunga did all in their power to make us comfortable. I have very good friends in most of the A.S.N. boats; they are gentlemen, good men and true, and it has been specially hard on many of them, that because the company lost money over the Chinese strike, and other foolish freaks of the directors, their salaries should have been reduced. But "a board” is not a noble institution, a man sitting as a director thereat will propose and carry out petty meannesses, which as a private individual he would be ashamed of. The directors of the A.S.N. Co. have shown by their acts that, as a corporate body, they are capable of anything in this line. This was my first voyage with Captain Saunders. I hope it will not be the last, or I don't see how I am to get back to Sydney. The chief officer, Mr. Calder, is an old friend of mine; I made the voyage to New Caledonia in the Gunga two years ago with him. Now he again has piloted me into the tropics. Let it be said also that the stewards were most attentive, I have no fault to find with them. This vessel has a Chinese crew of forty sailors and firemen. They are very docile and obedient, but required a good deal of breaking-in to their duties. The servile Mongolian nature, too, is at times apt to burst out ferociously and run a-mook. I think the company ought to provide all the officers on this line with firearms and ammunition, in case of an outbreak or mutiny. A piano on board would be a great source of amusement, and help to pass the time. But what does the company care for that? It is a very shark in taking the money of the public, and giving as little for it as possible. Time does hang on one's hands on board the Gunga. After we left Sydney Heads, we saw no sail for seven days. Wehad many visitors in the shape of flying fish, who came
on board to know what we were about, and were rewarded by being put in the frying-pan. On the morning of the second day out, we passed between Lord Howe's Island and Ball's Pyramid, a great sight at daybreak. The next land sighted was the Conway Reef, a long, narrow sand-spit, formed on a coral reef. On this there are a few bushes. The waves dash completely over it at times. There are no sea-birds there as yet, but per contra, sharks swarm around it; not a nice place to be shipwrecked on. In a few thousand years' time, this may be a large island, with groves of cocoa-nuts and tropical plants. At sea, one eats, drinks and sleeps—fine arts in their way, when proper materials are provided. If the Chinese crew for’ard played fan-tan all night, was there not Napoleon amongst a few inveterate gamblers aft? In conversations with old Fijians, I tried to get some insight into the vexed questions, rumours of which have brought me hither. I only arrived at one satisfactory conclusion, which is that Sir Arthur Gordon, Governor of Fiji, and Lord High Commissioner of Polynesia, is one of the best-hated men of the day, looked upon, rightly or wrongly, as a despot who overrides all the wishes, feelings, and interests of the European inhabitants of this colony, and who, as the arbitrary ruler of the country, source of all power, is also the source of all evil,
Who made the quartern loaf and Luddites rise,
And filled the butchers' shops with big blue flies. In a “ Crown colony of a severe type,” as this is, “the Government” and the “Governor” are synonymous terms; and so perchance it may be that Sir Arthur Gordon bears sins of commission and omission on his shoulders, which, if his lines had been cast in Sydney or Melbourne, with the dolce far niente duties of signing what the Chief Secretary told him, he would have been relieved of. If he had done nothing here, he certainly would have been more popular; as it is, he is hated with a holy hatred by numerous representatives of every class in the islands. On board the Gunga, at the public table, one heard such expressions as, “ He ought to be hung," “I would rather live under Cakambau.” Then I, “If so oppressed, why not get up a revolution ? Put the Governor on board the mailboat, with a letter to the Home authorities that the British flag was still flying, prayers for the Queen daily said, and Fijian affairs in commission until a new governor was sent out?” The reply, “If you will get up a revolution, and have the Governor hung, we will raise a splendid testimonial for you, and you can clear out to America.” Of course, this was mere persiflage, but English gentle
men do not talk in this way unless there is a deep undercurrent of feeling. I was much amused at this outburst, as the minute before I had been unmercifully snubbed for defending an old friend, Colonel Steinberger, in his Samoan difficulties. He was, “a Yankee adventurer, a filibuster.” But when I put the question “Gentlemen, which would you rather live under, Steinberger or Gordon?” the reply was “ Steinberger.” From many causes the Governor is hated and unpopular. In some, it flashes up into a red-hot fire; in others, it is subdued by considerations of interest—land claims to put through, love of the Government House claret, laziness, or disinclination to quarrel with authority, according to the temperament of the individual. But after a week ashore, I see no reason to alter the opinion formed on board the Gunga. As a truthful reporter I but chronicle what I see and hear. Whether Sir Arthur Gordon deserves all the abuse he receives is a different matter, of which I shall write
At five a.m. on Tuesday morning we sighted Mount Washington, at the end of the island of Kandavu. Here one of our passengers from the model colony saw his first cocoa-nut trees. The coast is very like that of Northern Queensland, or the east side of New Caledonia. There are high hills, with valleys and gorges in which the natives live. Kandavu is relatively more densely populated than any of the other islands. In time Viti Levu (Great Fiji) loomed up on the left. Here one sees the low flat lands of the Rewa, the best sugar producing district in Fiji. Under the hills lies Suva, which by the will of Sir Arthur Gordon, and against the wishes of the people, it is proposed to make the future capital. However, I shall visit this and give an account of the locale of the magnificent land speculations entered into by James M'Ewan and Co., of Melbourne, of the one part, and the Government of Fiji of the other part. Then other islands came in sight, and
breakers visible everywhere. In the afternoon we got near Ovalau. Levuka is situated round a point, and vessels not visible until they are well up. It would be a simple thing to have a semaphore on the mountain, and telegraph the arrival of vessels to the town. In Noumea, and at the Isle of Pines, in New Caledonia, they have such semaphores; but the French are in many things ahead of the colonies. Here such would be useful in advising the health officer to be on the qui vive, and merchants and clerks to be ready at their stores and offices. In any community where time is valued, this would be considered of importance; but I have come to the con